Monday, April 21, 2014

What Is Love

Love is one of those little four letter words that, for some, is so hard to define.  Some people live a lifetime without giving it, feeling it, or seeing it.  In some households it is an everyday spoken phrase "I love you".  In other households it is rarely spoken.

I must admit, saying "I love you" with regularity in my life has been hard to come by.  Growing up, it was rarely said and seldom heard, but you knew it was there. Once you have gotten married, then have children, the day to day pace in life picks up with great speed, and sometimes you just get out of the habit of saying "I love you". 

You must first understand what these words mean.  When you come in from an extended trip and your dog jumps into your lap and licks you nonstop for five minutes, that is "I love you".  When your child crawls up into your lap and doses off, that is "I love you".  I have not mastered it yet, but I'm trying to get better.

I have had a great teacher. As I look back on our life together, the signs were all there.   When I asked LaNelle to marry me and she said yes, that was "I love you".  When she said "I do" at the alter, that was I love you.  The first time we saw our first born, that was "I love you". 

Now, laying in bed holding each other is "I love you".  Sitting together quietly on a streetcar, taking in the sights is "I love you".  Letting her pick the next activity or restaurant is "I love you".

It has taken me thirty years to discover that "I love you" is not just three words.  It is a lifetime commitment to the one you call your partner.  It is an act that is unconditional.  There will be bad and worse times, but in the end, you have each other. 


To my darling wife, I love you!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

MIA in NOLA

As i make my journey through the City of New Orleans, some things are missing.....

Ever go to the Top of The Mart.  At the end of Canal Street is a singular tall building with a round top.  This was a bar built on a revolving floor.  One of our traditions was going up there for a drink or two and taking in the lights and sights after the sun had set for the day.  No longer there....

Hard Rock Cafe.  Great place for a hangover burger and a beer.  Now occupied by H&M clothing store.

Shoe shine boys.  If they saw you wearing sneakers they would say "I'll bet you a dollar I know where you got them shoes!". You'd say OK, and they would say " one's on ya left foot and the other is on ya right"!  Seems nobody wears leather shoes that need shining anymore....

Takem Outem.  To feed a quick hunger pain you could always get a cheap shish kabob for a couple of bucks.  They still have the hot dog vendors throughout the quarter.

Strip clubs with girls on the inside.  Seems now they are all "showing their wares" outside the front door.  My faded memory tells me they were better looking in the dark at 2 a.m. on the inside hustling drinks for a living.

Margaritaville retail store.  That sucker was all boarded up!

The old Farmers Market in the Quarter.  Sorry, the one pre-Katrina had some charm about it.  Now, not so much......

Baby white gators at the zoo.  Them bad boys done growed up!

NOPD on horseback.  I'm sure they are here, just haven't seen them all trip.  That may be a good thing.

The Audubon Zoo in better days.  McD's French fries probably left long ago.  New and remodeled displays are coming, but long over due.

Probably a lot more, but Ray Nagin ain't one of them!

NOLA and my aching feet

The day began with a owner update meeting breakfast, and of course, they had to try to sell you more points.  During Q&A I got a question right and won a Wyndham beer glass.  Spousal unit came away with a $50 visa card.  Made a bet with a new friend from Birmingham that we would get outta there first.  I won!

We were surprised to find part of the St. Charles streetcar line was down for track repair.  You have to do a bus transfer for a couple of miles.  Seems like there is always some kinda construction/repairs going on in an old city like New Orleans.

For the middle of the day, there was an unbelievable number of people mingling about on Canal Street and all the connecting streets in the Quarter.  I guess it was overflow from the marathon held earlier on the day.

The Streets were full of street performers.  Musicians, painters, mimes in all colors of body paint, card readers, acrobats and many others trying to get you to put a dollar in their tip bucket.

We had agreed to meet up with our new friend in Jackson Square for a beignet treat.  While we were waiting in the St. Louis courtyard, a wedding was in progress.  With wedding march music in the background, I was able to get a picture of my bride of 30 years.


We took a seat under a tree.  The spousal unit noticed I had been tagged by the blue bird of happiness.  I think that bird must be related to the squirrels from my neighborhood!


After our beignet treat, We made our way back toward Canal and stopped at Johnny's Poboys.  We had the "surf and turf" which a roast beef with fried shrimp.  Our timing couldn't have been better.  As we began devouring our sandwich, the staff announced that the restaurant was now closed.  They close at 4:30 each day, but folks kept coming in for at lease thirty more minutes.


We made our way to the park along the river.  The spousal unit has this thing about running water.  All it does for me is make me want to pee!  I overheard a northern tourist interviewing a local about Katrina, the oil spill and eating oysters and other creatures out of the Gulf.  Learned from her that the Exxon Valdez had spilled its contents in the Gulf of Mexico.  The poor woman needed a geography lesson.  Got to see an oil tanker make its way up river.  Then, the Carnival cruise ship made a uturn from its dock and headed down river.  It looked small from our vantage point until I noticed the little dots milling around on deck.


It was now time to move on.  The Riverwalk  Mall remodel will be finished in a couple of months, turning itself into a premium outlet mall.  We waited our turn for the river street car, then moved on the the Canal Street line.  There was a streetcar that looked stalled.  Turns out it was transporting another wedding party.  Our $3 all day bus pass was our savior.  Made the switch to the St. Charles line and we were hotel bound.  Met a bunch of guys from Canada doing a golf tour.  Had a nice conversation about health care.

A group of girls from Florida A&M seemed lost.  The spousal unit stepped in to save the day.  They decided to ride the St. Charles to the end of the line and back with us.  Along the route we had to make a transfer to a bus for a couple of miles.  The spousal unit was taking several selfies as we made our way down the line.  She began to laugh at the pictures.  Turns out we had the same photo bomber in each one!




We had a nice little chat with him before he exited the ride. I noticed that he was covered in makeup and lipstick.  Turns out he works at the Lancome counter at Macy's at the Lakeside Mall.  He lives with his grandmother that has a house on St. Charles.  As he exited the streetcar you could not help but notice that he was carrying a purse!  The FA&M girls got a big kick out of that!


We made out way to the end of the line.  Got a big laugh at those girls trying to figure out what was happening next.  The driver told them that if you are staying on, head to the back of the car.  The looks on their faces was priceless.  I began helping the driver with flipping the seats.  I just about cracked up when the light bulb in their heads went off!  The driver then took the time to tell these girls the history of the Garden District.  It was interesting to hear it from a local that wasn't a tour guide.  At the bus transfer location, they all gave him a hung and took selfies with him.  He reminded them to enjoy the remainder of their stay in his city, and to always stick together!  Spousal unit gave him a nice tip for the entertainment.

Dinner ended up at Mr. John's Steakhouse at the condo complex.  Steaks cooked under 1800 degree heat!  Melt in your mouth!

       
The gumbo was to die for and the beer was ice cold.

Tomorrow, the zoo and more adventures!


Saturday, April 19, 2014

NOLA bound!

Months ago we decided to spend Easter weekend in New Orleans as a belated birthday celebration for the spousal unit.  Booked 3 nights using our Wyndham timeshare points.

Road trips are always an adventure.  Had to dodge a 5 gallon bucket on an I20 bridge, looked in the rear view mirror and it looked like a soccer ball bouncing from car to car!

Made it all the way to the Kentwood LA exit before gravity know cked in.  Stopped at a Too station for the pitstop.  Saw a sign that the Roo cups are on their way.  Cup is around $7 with $.25 refills all summer!

First stop was Macy's on Esplanade.  The spousal unit had the checkout girl working overtime to match her coupons up for the best discounts.  Gonna have to rent a "pod" to make room for all her bargains.  Me, I found a bargain or two:



Next stop was Lakeside Mall.  Yes, there is a Macy's n this one too!  Decided to have our dessert first with a stop at Cafe de Monde in the mall.  This one is still owned by the family.  Probably will visit the one in the Square too.




A quick stop in William Sonoma, and I found this year's latest gadget for outdoor grilling.  Its a three on one tool.  If it ain't dead by the time it hits the grill,  stab it a couple of times with this bad boy!


 With bargain hunting done, took a short ride to the River Shack Tavern. It was a short ride from the Mall, but far enough away from those Macy's cash registers! Friday is usually a mudbug night but I guess Good Friday  was an exception.  The shrimp and oysters were to die for.  


The catfish, alligator sausage and sweet tater fries were pretty good too.  This was like having four poboys in one without the bread.  Spousal unit got herself a half and half shrimp and oyster poboy.

Found our way to the condo in no time.  Goggle maps sent us down Airline Highway rather than going by interstate.    Hit all green lights!  This place is right on St. Charles, so the car just might stay parked the whole trip.   Room has a living area with a small kitchenette.  Sure beats a hotel room!
Here is the birthday girl showing off her bargains.  It took six receipts to make all her extra discount coupons to work.  She could make a good living showing folks how to spend money to save money!

Got one of those "free breakfast" condo meetings that the spousal unit signed us up for.  Then, the St. Charles street car out the front door and off to the zoo and then several food adventures.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Game 31

Gotta FB message inviting me and the spousal unit over to a friend's house for a game of 31.  Spousal unit thought it was a retail party for selling tote bags that are the latest rage at tailgating gathering.  I inquired if it was some new version of strip poker.  It was neither, turns our its a card game, and the more that attend, the more fun it is!

The hostess provided all the party supplies and all the attendees were responsible for BYOB, and appetizer and $5 a head, to make it interesting for the gents.  Ain't no quicker way to get the men folk involved and to mention cards and money!

We had quite a few varieties of BYOB's.  Me, I took my Mic Ultras, the spousal unit had her iced down pino g. One woman came with a fully loaded wine in a box, just for her consumption.  I could just see her trying to explain it to the popo, "but officer, its not an open container" as she squeezed the outlet to refill her cup!  As far as beer, I saw Coors, Miller Lite, a Bud or two, but the craft beers have done took over.  Glad I brought my own, everybody offered one of those fancy beers to try, but there were too dang many choices, and some with the oddest of flavorings.  As my Uncle Jimmy Beckham told me, "if it looks like piss, it probably tastes like it too"!  He was a cocktail kinda guy.  With Uncle Jimmy still in my mind, I stuck with my Ultras.

Everyone filled their plate with all the appetizers that filled the kitchen.  You could tell the men folk didn't do the cooking, as meat was so scarce that I thought this was a gathering of vegetarians!  Me, I brought two boxes of cheese straws to further contribute to the lack of man grilled heaven.  One young feller had made a "buffalo dip" and I congratulated him on almost bringing a casserole!

Time for the game.  One of the attendees took the time to explain the rules of the game.  Turns out there is very little opportunity to find a cheating partner, since there were no teams, just three tables for the game and you were on your own.

We had the giggles, and yep, we even had a screamer or two.  The BYOB helped to loosen up the stiffest of gamers.  We had one fella the groaned the whole game as he would grab a new card and discard another.  Musta worked, as he won the game at our table.  I tried all of my tricks to break his string of good luck but I was put out of the game before any of it worked.  Turned out he came in second in the championship round.  The amazing thing to me, his lowest hand all night was the last hand of the game!

Before you knew it, the game was over.  The fella that explained the rules was the eventual winner, go figure!  Came time to leave, but with so many cars, you had to wait your turn.  Some of us made a game out of that!  Fun was had by all, and as far as I could tell, everybody went home with the one that brung'em!

Anne & David, thanks for the invite!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Time Warp

My new job as an assembler took me to the City of Pearl, Mississippi.  I fell in love with Pearl when I first moved to Metro Jackson over 25 years ago.  This was back during the "blue law" days when most stores were closed on Sunday.  Pearl had a Walmart, and it, along with other stores were open seven days a week.  The bonus was that every fast food restaurant imaginable was located on that strip of Highway 80!

Times, my how they have changed.  The landscape of that stretch of Highway 80 has really changed.  Most of the restaurants have relocated to Pearson Road to be near Interstate 20 and the developments centered around the Mississippi Braves ball park.

My work took me to the local Roses store, just off Highway 80.  Not much else there accept some check cashing joints and a pawn shop.  The doors do not open automatically, the ceiling tiles are stained from water leaks, but man, that place is crammed full of merchandise.

I can remember going in there way back when, and it was comparable to the initial Walmart, Howards Discount, and a step above Freds.  This store's current layout reminded me of my initial visit.  Almost nothing had changed from my earlier visits, except that the building had aged.  A memory of an old Star Trek episode flashed through my mind.  The Star Trek crew were on a planet resembled Earth during the nineteen twenties.  I thought, rut, row, time warp!

I was stationed near the back storage room to do my assembly duties.  I was charged with putting together some of their display items.  Most of this stuff is very low end, and when you tighten a screw, you only get one shot at it, since most of the parts are glue & sawdust and plastic!

I got to see the stocking process in action.  The first thing to hit me was no one that passed my was  smiling, or seemed to attempt to take pride in their work.  Several customers inquired where to find something, and the store employees would simply point, and say "over there".

I had to laugh at myself a few times.  I was assembling several rocking chairs, which required an application of glue in addition to the screws.  I held one of the tubes of glue in my hand and apparently I squeezed it a bit too hard.  Next thing I know, the top pops off and glue squirts skyward and hits the ceiling tiles!

Several customers came by and admired my work, and inquired if what I was assembling was for sale.  The store clerk said no, if they sold the displays they would have to pay someone like me to put another one together.  At this point, it was very difficult not to crack up!

The store employees brought me two large boxes containing a wicker patio set.  One of them commented, "wow, I've never seen anything this nice in the store before"!  It retailed for $200!  I got it all put together, and it was time to fill out my paperwork.  I looked at the wicker set, and then one of the rocking chairs.  Scared to try the wicker, I settled into the rocker.  I could just see me sitting on that wicker and ending up in the floor when it fell apart!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring Was in the Air in Fairhope Alabama

This is the time of year when spring is just starting to crack its way out of the ground.  The Spousal Unit and I hit the road for our third annual trip to Fairhope, Alabama for their spring arts and crafts show.

Fairhope is neat community, south of I10, just as you come off the Mobile Bay bridge.  Of course, just getting across the bay can be an adventure.  I10 takes you through the Mobile tunnel under the bay, and traffic can get backed up for miles in both directions.  Some folks will use the old downtown tunnel and re-enter I10 further down the road, and others will take the suspension bridge. A little north, slightly off I165.  I forgot to turn and ended up looping back into the I10 mess, but with little wait.
The traffic heading west was backed up for miles, spring breakers heading home.

As you approach Fairhope on US98, you are drawn in by a salute of rows of U.S. flags lining the roadway.  The town is bike friendly, as there are  bike paths on several of the major roads within the City.

Our mission for the day was to explore all of the vendor booths and discover a few treasures.  The main downtown area is blocked off for the artisans to display their wares.  The vendors are chosen from the applications submitted.  It is not a given that vendors will be approved each year, depending on the volume of submissions in their category.  Missed seeing Jewelry by Randy this year.

Fairhope is a pet friendly community, as owners and their pets were visible throughout the festival.  The community even had several pet adoption booths located throughout the fair.

You could definitely tell you were in the south, as a dozen or so young ladies were dressed up in antebellum dresses in a variety of colors, and they were eager to pose for a picture with you.

There was even a food court, complete with kettle corn, pork skins, corn dogs, and dozens of other fair foods being sold by a variety of vendors.  The hot food item this year was being sold by friends of ours, Jack and Lisa Beasley, with Funny Face Foods,  a red velvet funnel cake with powdered sugar and cream cheese icing.  It was the bomb!

We finished up our day at the fair, and with rainy weather fast approaching, we decided to head further south to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.  We will be returning in May for a conference, and found the resort.

As we cruised the area, I looked at the clock and saw that it was 4:00.  it was obvious it was condo check in time, as the parking lots were full of college kids and all their stuff.  The girls were lugging suitcases of clothes, and the boys were lugging suitcases of beer.  I think it all works out in the end!

Our tour was complete, and it was a bit too early for dinner, so we decided to head back to Mobile Bay, closer to our hotel.  The restaurant of choice was on old US90/98, a place called Felix's.  There are several restaurants in this area, and all the parking lots were over flowing.  Once inside, we discovered that without a reservation it would be a two hour wait!  Ha!  Not on your life!  Ended up at a Mexican restaurant near the hotel.  We will give ole Felix another shot on the way home.

If you have a lazy weekend, give Fairhope a look. The Marriott Grand Hotel is a few miles further south is you want to stay near the water.  Give it all a try, you'll be surprised at what you will find!